On Coaching In The A-League

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“So are Sydney going to sack their coach, yet again?”

It’s a sentence that I repeatedly heard earlier this season after people were calling for Frank Farina’s head through a string of losses and disappointing play.* It came from people attempting to mock me and my fellow Sydney fans for the so called instability at the management level of the club.

The problem here is twofold. Firstly, sticking with a coach purely because you’ve sacked too many coaches in the past is lunacy. If the coach is not the right man for the job, keeping him only breeds mediocrity at best and abject failure at worst. Secondly, I’m not so sure that this reputation for sacking coaches at Sydney is all that warranted – particularly given the recent spate of sackings in the A-League. Regardless, the perception is there that if you take the Sydney job, you’re only keeping the seat warm for the next guy and that is damaging in attempting to attract top quality coaches to the club.

It all started after Sydney won the inaugural toilet seat and didn’t renew Pierre Littbarski’s contract. Littbarski met all targets required of him – Qualify for World Club Championship, win the A-League, you know, just some simple, unambitious performance metrics. Due to his success, he asked for a raise. The Sydney FC board wanted to give him a pay cut. Thus began the reputation of the Sydney Coaching Merry Go Round.** But there have been a lot of sackings across the board since this league began. So I want to compare some of the records of the other teams that have been here since the beginning

The first thing I want to note here is that Littbarski wasn’t actually sacked, but given the insulting nature of the offer (given his performance), I’m going to count it as a sacking when I lay this all out. The second thing is that as a ground rule, I’m not going to count a “caretaker” coach as a manager unless they go on to be given the top job on a permanent basis. It’s a ridiculously unfair way to twist statistics to your favour if you are trying to talk up the high coaching turnover rate. Lastly, just because someone has been the manager at a club before, doesn’t mean that they only get counted once. As long as someone else coached in between the 2 stints, that is a managerial change…

Sydney FC

I’ll start with the boys in blue since they are the reason this topic has come up and what I will be comparing everyone else to. Sydney have had a total of 7 head coaches over these 8 and a half seasons and even including Littbarski as a “sacking” they have only sacked 4 managers and the last of them was in January 2009. 5 years ago. On average they sack a coach once every 2.125 seasons. Not a picture of coaching stability, but not outrageous given most coaches contracts these days are only done 2 or 3 years at a time anyway.

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Newcastle Jets

Having just sacked Van Egmond as their 2 time manager the Jets have just made their 6th managerial appointment. Only one less than Sydney.*** 4 of those managers have been sacked, the same number as Sydney, with the most recent just this week. They also average a sacking every 2.125 seasons. Given the low pressure that come along with the Newcastle job, for them to sack the same number of managers as Sydney indicates that the board there have even less patience.

Perth Glory

Perth have had 5 full time coaches so far (with 2 interim managers) and I’m not including Kenny Lowe, who should get the top job, or whoever his predecessor may be but Perth need to be making their 6th managerial appointment at some point soon. They have sacked all 5 of their managers since the A-League began^ putting them at a sacking every 1.7 seasons – the highest sack rate in the league – and their most recent sacking was just a few weeks ago when they let go of Alistair Edwards. So as they look to appoint their next manager they would hope that nobody notices their 100% sacking history.

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Brisbane Roar

The current league leaders have had 5 coaches since their inception sacking three of them for a sack rate of 2.833. Their most recent sacking was in December 2012, just over a year ago. From the outside looking in, they look to have made the right move in each sacking and in all but one case, made the decision in a timely manner to stop things festering and dragging the club down. But the fact remains they have only sacked one fewer coach than Sydney in the same amount of time. Interestingly, 2 of the 3 coaches that the Roar have sacked are both currently employed by Sydney FC…

Adelaide United

The Reds have had 5 head coaches, but their time under Valkanis did start to push the boundaries of what could be considered an “interim” coach given he was in charge for 10 games which is over a third of a season in this league. They have sacked 3 of their coaches and it was almost 4 but Kosmina saved them the embarrassment of having to sack him a second time after he left because of the way he was being treated by the club. If I was trying to skew the figures in my arguments favour, I would claim this under the Littbarski rule, but I don’t need to do that. 3 sackings is still only one less than Sydney for a sack rate of 2.833 with their last sacking being 2 years and one month ago.

Melbourne Victory

Melbourne are another to have had 5 full time managers in their 8.5 seasons and have sacked 3 so the same statistics as above. Interestingly, however, their FIRST sacking didn’t come until March 2011, meaning that they have sacked 3 coaches in the last 3 years. Again, not a picture of stability of late but have somehow avoided a reputation.

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Central Coast Mariners

The one team that has been in the league since its inception that has never sacked one of their three managers. They have had relative success over their years meaning that the issue has never really had to be addressed. They are clearly an outlier in this league and more power to them.

So the sum of all this tells me that the Sydney coaching position is no more unstable than any other in the league. Perth have fired more managers and the Jets have fired as many as Sydney. Every foundation team bar the Mariners has fired at least one head coach, and many of them more than one, since Sydney last fired theirs and any coach would be mad to turn down the opportunity at Moore Park, given the resources at their command.

Of course these figures change if the axe falls on Farina in the next few weeks and I’m sure the same hack writers will pull out the same old clichés to stick up for their mates if it does. Just remember that the facts don’t really support them, and it’s a poor reason to keep a manager anyway.

 

ROUND 16 PICKS

The above article sees the tips relegated to a footnote for the picks this week. I went out on a limb last week and picked the Heart, which came off, but it was my only correct tip for the week meaning I start this week at -$24.85

$2 on Brisbane to beat Wellington (at $1.48)

$2 on a draw between Adelaide and Heart (at $3.65)

$2 on Newcastle to beat Central Coast (at $4.50)

$2 on a draw between Victory and Sydney (at $3.80)

$2 on Wanderers to beat Glory (at $1.60)

Gamble Responsibly

 

 

 

*Interestingly, I haven’t heard it at all during the recent string of losses and disappointing play. I don’t know if that is due to the fact that Farina is now, only a few months later, actually one of the longest tenured coaches in the league, or they don’t feel the need to mock Sydney fans because it may actually be the right decision.

**It also began a string of poor decisions that are still going today.

***Granted, Van Egmond was on his second go, but still.

^Obviously I’m not counting before the A-League, I’m trying to compare Apples with Apples

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